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December 18, 2017 4:39 pm

Trump Takes Hard Line Against Iran in Speech Unveiling ‘America First’ National Security Strategy

avatar by Ben Cohen and Agencies

President Trump waves to the audience after outlining his national security strategy in a speech in Washington, DC on Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Joshua Roberts.

US President Donald Trump had harsh words for Iran on Tuesday, as he delivered a speech in Washington, DC unveiling his “America First” national security strategy.

“To counter Iran and block its path to a nuclear weapon, I sanctioned the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) for its support of terrorism,” Trump said. “I declined to certify the Iran deal to Congress.”

The president also said that “the Gulf states and other Muslim-majority nations” had “joined together to fight radical Islamic ideology and terrorist financing” following his trip to the Middle East earlier this year.

Trump outlined the four pillars undergirding his strategy as the protection of the American homeland and its borders, promoting American economic prosperity, boosting spending on the US military and ending the defense budget sequester, and advancing American influence and values abroad.

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“Any nation that trades away its prosperity for security will end up losing both,” Trump said.

One former senior official in the George W. Bush administration observed that Trump was far less sanguine than his predecessor on the question of alliances with other nations.

“President Trump obviously sees a Hobbesian world with enormous challenges to the United States, and the Strategy sees countries like China, Iran, and Russia as rivals and opponents not partners,” Elliott Abrams — who served as deputy assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration — told The Algemeiner on Monday.

“Accordingly it calls for an increase in American military strength,” Abrams said. “That is a welcome change from the Obama approach to world affairs.”

On the Middle East, Trump’s National Security Strategy echoes some of the skepticism of the Bush administration regarding the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute to the myriad conflicts and human rights outrages across the region.

In 2006, Bush’s National Security Strategy declared, “Terrorism is not simply a result of Israeli-Palestinian issues. Al-Qaeda plotting for the September 11 attacks began in the 1990s, during an active period in the peace process.”

Trump’s strategy document goes even further, arguing, “For generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region. Today, the threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems.”

“States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats,” the National Security Strategy document highlighted.

Overall, the strategy indicates that the Trump administration will work with national governments and regional bodies in the Middle East to counter Islamist terrorism and growing Iranian political and military influence.

“Whenever possible, we will encourage gradual reforms,” the strategy said. “We will support efforts to counter violent ideologies and increase respect for the dignity of individuals. We remain committed to helping our partners achieve a stable and prosperous region, including through a strong and integrated Gulf Cooperation Council. We will strengthen our long-term strategic partnership with Iraq as an independent state. We will seek a settlement to the Syrian civil war that sets the conditions for refugees to return home and rebuild their lives in safe.”

The document continued: “We will work with partners to deny the Iranian regime all paths to a nuclear weapon and neutralize Iranian malign influence. We remain committed to helping facilitate a comprehensive peace agreement that is acceptable to both Israelis and Palestinians.”

The new national security strategy identifies Russia and China as threats to US prosperity, saying that both countries are “developing advanced weapons and capabilities that could threaten our critical infrastructure and our command and control architecture.”

Nevertheless, in his speech, Trump presented the US and Russia as allies in the war againt Islamist terror groups. The president warmly mentioned a phone call he received from Russian leader Vladimir Putin thanking the US for supplying intelligence that thwarted a major terrorist outrage in the city of St. Petersburg.

“That’s a great thing,” Trump stressed. “That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”

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